In yet another blow to Donald Trump’s attempts to scrap the DACA US immigration program, a New York judge has ruled that Chad Wolf, the acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chief, was appointed unlawfully.
The ruling means that his suspension of the DACA program is invalid because he did not have the authority to stop the scheme. In August, Workpermit.com revealed details of a Government Accountability Office report that claimed that Chad Wolf, and acting United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) chief, Ken Cuccinelli, were appointed to their roles illegally.
Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the US District Court of the Eastern District of New York has now ruled that Wolf’s appointment was indeed unlawful and has voided a memo issued by the acting DHS chief that suspended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program back in July.
Donald Trump relied too heavily on acting heads
Those opposed to Wolf’s appointment said that the ruling ‘highlights the limitations of Donald Trump’s pattern of relying too heavily on appointing acting officials unconfirmed by the Senate to enact policy.’
According to the Brookings Institution, Trump has chosen to appoint acting officials across the government ‘at a pace that far exceeds previous US Presidents.’ Meanwhile, advocates of a balanced government have blasted Trump’s dependence on temporary appointments to bypass Senate confirmation.
Many have described it as an ‘abuse of executive power’ and ‘a way to appoint ideologically extreme or loyal officials without input from the legislative branch.’
The New York judge’s ruling also casts doubt on Trump’s ability to put enduring policies in place or appoint other personnel in acting roles in the remaining months of his presidency prior to President-elect Joe Biden taking office in January 2021.
In his ruling, judge Garaufis stated that President Trump did not appoint Wolf – who has served as acting head of Homeland Security since November 2019 – in accordance with the law.
Garaufis, appointed by former US President Bill Clinton, said: “DHS [the Department of Homeland Security] failed to follow the order of succession as it was lawfully designated. Therefore, the actions taken by purported Acting Secretaries, who were not properly in their roles according to the lawful order of succession, were taken without legal authority.”
Ruling aligns with Government Accountability Report
Judge Garaufis’ ruling aligns with the Government Accountability Office’s report back in August, which detailed why Wolf and Cuccinelli had not been correctly appointed because of a paperwork error.
Despite his unlawful appointment, Wolf issued a memo on July 28 that suspended new applications for the DACA US immigration program, which 640,000 US immigrants - brought to the country illegally as children - rely on to live and work in the US.
The memo also shortened the renewal period for protection of DACA immigrants – also known as ‘Dreamers’ – from two years to 12 months.
However, although the ruling acknowledges that Wolf’s appointment was unlawful, it does not immediately dismiss the Trump administration’s changes to the DACA program. Rather the government and groups that opened the case, which includes the National Immigration Law Center, must now meet to discuss next steps.
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